Experts have been unable to understand the origin of the practice of routine male circumcision. Most of the literature shows no awareness of phimosis - its frequency - or the sexual and erectile problems which can be cured by circumcision. If routine circumcision had been introduced for this most obvious reason of eliminating difficult foreskins; then the importance of an alternative modern method, suitable to our culture's attitudes in this day and age, would be clear.

"Die Beschneidung bei Mann und Weib"

Gustav Feller. New Brandenburg. (1931)

"Circumcision in Man and Woman"
translated: David Berger MA

American Ethnological Press New York (1934)
AMS Press (1974)
extracts from p. 92 - 207
revised: R. Stuart

Full Index

Part Two
Page 120-149
p. 120
p. 123
p. 128
p. 134
p. 136
p. 137
p. 138
p. 140
p. 141
p. 143
p. 147
Various methods
Testicular exstirpation
Dicissio (Subincision)
Incisio Glandis
Stoll - (psychology)
"Fairy tales"
S. 98
S. 101
S. 106
S. 111
S. 113
S. 113
S. 114
S. 117
S. 118
S. 119
S. 123

p. 120

If the question is to be treated with thoroughness all mutilations and manipulations of the masculine organ must be discussed. The concept of circumcision must not be made too exclusive, or its history would deal entirely with the highly specialized operation of the penis, and the primitive operations out of which it arose or which it supplanted, but which certainly belong to the circumcision complex, would not be expressed.

Zeller (p. 131) comprehends the following five kinds of manipulations of the masculine sexual organ under the general concept of circumcision.

1. Incision (incisio)
2. Perforation (perforatio)
3. Circumcision (circumcisio vera)
4. Subincision (introcisio)
5. Testicular extirpation (exstirpatio testiculi)

p. 121

As a general characteristic of these five kinds of more or less severe mutilations Zeller mentions the purely secondary parallel phenomenon "that they are always amid special ceremonies. Often, to be sure, only quite insignificant survivals of these rites are present, especially where commerce predominates. But from these survivals one may with certainty conclude previous important ceremonies, for in the course of time, usages may change or even disappear in part and leave only indications behind."

Von Movorka (p. 131) differentiates the following operations performed on the masculine organ according to the part affected:

a) Discissio urethrae (slitting open of the urinary tube - urethrotomia externa).
... 1) totalis (mika operation)
... 2) partial splitting (also for purely medical reasons according to von Steinen)
b) Perforatio penis (Ampallang)
c) Implantatio
d) Circumcisio
e) Excisio
f) Incisio
g) Infibulatio

p. 122 (Deutsch p. 100)

According to the present status of the study of circumcision we must differentiate the following kinds of bloody and non-bloody manipulations of the masculine member:

a) manualis (general; especially Japan).................. non-bloody.
b) chemica (Massai, Nandi) .................. non-bloody.
II. LIGATURA PRAEPUTII ("Kynodesme"; Eskimo, South America................... non-bloody.
III. PERFORATIO PRAEPUTII (Infibulatio Romanorum; China, East Turkestan)
a) Incisio praeputii (Samoa, Celebes, Jews; also medicinal)
b) Excisio praeputii (Tartars (Gmelin; cf. p. 42)
c) Circumcisio partialis (Massai, Jao, Kikuyu, Hottentos, Suk (?))
d) Circumcisio totalis (Jews, Islamites, etc.; also medicinal as postectomy)
V. DISSECTIO FRENULI (South America, Tahlti, and Loyalty Islands (Sarasin))
VI. PERFORATIO GLANDIS ("Ampallang", "Kambiong", "Kaleng", Karesau Islanders (?); Mexico)
VIII. IMPLANTATIO (Batta, Sumatra)
IX. RECUTITRO (renewal of the foreskin, formerly among the Israelites)
X. CUTITIO (Yemen)
XI. DISCISSIO URETHRAE (mika operation - introcisio)
XII. AMPUTATIO PENIS (Skopetzes; as punishment)
XIII EXSTIRPATIO TESTICULI SINISTRI (Hottentots, East Africa, Ponape, Friendship Islands)
XIV. CASTRATIO (Eunuchism in the Orient; Vatican singers).

p. 123

Discissio urethrae appears only in connection with a previously performed circumcision; also the manipulations under XII and XIV may appear in combination. For the present, we shall leave several varieties undiscussed, especially all the non-bloody ones (because they fit better into the framework of the exposition in a later place), and detail only those forms of mutilation which are absolutely necessary for the understanding of the explanations taken into account by psychoanalysis.

It was old Kolbe (p. 420) who was the first to give us a detailed report on partial castration among the Hottentots, which is no longer practiced today. Frobenius has authenticated it for East Africa and even Algiers (but here only in mythology). L. Schultze, however, is somewhat skeptical about this supposedly universal custom of the Hottentots; he writes-. "I have never found the masculine organ circumcised in any part (l).

1. On the other hand, Luschan's reports assert the occurrence of a form of circumcision (B.)

"The old reports of the alleged custom among the Hottentots of removing one testicle from the maturing youth can no longer be verified today. Perhaps these old reports had their origin in a medical measure of the Hottentots, which Kroenlein (Wortschatz der Khoikoin, 1889, p. 202) noted approximately fifty years ago: excision of one testicle as a cure for lumbago. But perhaps an old mythological conception is the basis for this also: For the raphe scroti was found the strange designation ginas om daob, i. e. the path (da-ob) or seam that the fly (ginas) has sewn. The word indubitably is based on the conception of an opened scrotum. It was probably formed as a result of the first astonished sight of the raphe and an imaginative explanation given it in a myth, like that of the moon and the hare for harelip (Lit. 81, p. 448), or the

p. 124

story of the baboon and the zebra for the gluteal callosities and the chestnuts (81, p. 535) ".

Testicular extirpation among the Bergdama Families is mentioned by Walk (p. 886).

Since the report of Kolbe has been repeatedly reprinted in most works dealing with the sex life of primitives, I quote one less well known on artificial monorchism among the inhabitants of the island of Panope.(1) "According to the assurance of a white man who had been living on the island for some time, a sailor, the men content themselves with one testicle; at the early age of seven to eight years all boys have their left testicle extirpated by means of a sharpened piece of bamboo. This is said to occur because they believe that they can thus forever prevent any possible case of orchitis, and also, because the girls find one testicled men better looking and more attractive. My guarantor assured me that all the Ponapesians that he had had the chance to see naked, possessed only the right testicle, and this was confirmed by another sailor who had likewise lived on this island for some time."

1) "I have subsequently received full confirmation from a third source, so that there can be no doubt at all," Finsch also learned from Captain Wright that the same custom was prevalent on the Island of Ninatabuitabu (one of the Friendship Islands) "where almost every twenty-year-old youth possessed only one testicle." Boys vie with one another as to who shall be operated upon first. Neither Wright nor, Finsch mention ceremonies in connection with testicular extirpation.

Finsch mentions the artificial production of the vagina hypertelica by means of plucking, licking and biting (!) by the men, indeed, even "by the bite of a large black ant, which, as I experienced myself, causes a pricking sensation".

The purpose of partial excision given by the natives is interesting, that the "women, prefer intercourse with semi-castrated men", and that "such men are said to have greater endurance in coitu (2)."

2) Could the native have anticipated Steinach? (B.)

There is even the ghost of a prophylactic purpose: it

p. 125

is supposed to prevent elephantiasis of the testicles and orchitis. (Finsch, Joest, p. 91.)

Castration and phallotomy are often confused, and even identified, with this partial testicular extirpation. The question is thus simplified, but a confusion brought about, which, however, in the speculations on the origin of cir-

[Note to Fig. 61] Azandeh mutilated in punishment for adultery (after Czecanowski, plate 32)3.)
3) The adulterer's penis and scrotum were cut off and his hands chopped off. The truncated arms were then dipped In boiling oil to prevent his bleeding to death. But in spite of this, his legitimate wife continues to care for him lovingly, and he satisfies her now only with the stump of his arm.

p. 126

cumcision, leads more readily to results. When, for example, Freud speaks of a castration complex among children when they think of circumcision, he probably means by that the amputatio penis and not castration.

Pelikan has collected all the motives for castration known to him, but has not exactly mentioned in the individual cases whether phallotomy occurred or not. It may be assumed that in the cases of punishment mentioned by him, the abscission of the penis, was also performed, and that alone. There is a very remarkable case of a castration sect in Russia, the Skopetzes, who for purely religious reasons have recourse to such fearful auto-mutilation (1). It may be of value to the psychologist for the deeper understanding of this problem if I describe a latent psychic phenomenon which with any long term external impulse, would inevitably lead to amputatio penis. In my youth 1 heard an old monomaniac man (a paranoiac?) say the following while urinating, "I'll cut it off! Why should the branch rule the tree?"

1) According to Pelikan the various degrees of castration are termed as follows among the Skopetzes: "Little seal"-removal of the testes; "Czar seal," "second purity," "second whitening," "to mount the white horse"-removal of the testes and penis.

"The motives . . . lying behind castration, which we shall discuss here exclusively, are extremely varied throughout the ages.
a) Eunuchs (2) are still in use today as servants in Oriental harems.

2) According to Adler (p. 72) the Turkish Sultan Amurad II, after having made the accidental observation that a gelding covered a mare, Introduced the radical precautionary measure that from then on not those merely castrated, i.e. deprived of testes, were to be used as harem guards, but complete eunuchs, those whose entire external genitals had been removed. (B.)

b) Semiramis is said to have had the weaklings among her subjects castrated in order to prevent a weak generation from arising.
c) There are known in the history of the Byzantine Empire many cases of castration for political purposes, in order to assure a certain dynasty of the throne.

p. 127

d) In later times young people were castrated in Italy in order to preserve their rescant (soprano) voices for a longer time.
e) In China this barbaric custom originated from pederastic prostitution.
f) In addition there should be reckoned here also individual cases of castration for revenge and jealousy, for fear of syphilitic infection, to free one's self from military service, during attacks of insanity, and the like. Besides, it is well known that in former times castration was exercised as a penalty for various criminal offences, rape, etc.". (Pelikan, pp. 5-6.)
Also onanists and those tortured by pollutions are said to have themselves castrated, just as nymphomaniac women undergo clitorectomy. (Laurent & Nagour, p. 71.)
g) Finally there is the castration sect of the Skopetzes (1) in Russia who are the slaves of a religious dogma and which has its origin in a misunderstanding of Christ's words: "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake". (Matth., XIX, 12.)
Their precursors are said to be the Valensians of about the third century of our era.

1) In Egypt also the Coptic monks have themselves circumcised. (Panceri, p. 353.) Even In Finland (Sotkamo) (?) a similar sect is said to exist among the Protestant population. (B.)

Not only do children confuse castration with circumcision, but even in Roman criminal law circumcision is identified with it or subordinated to it. According to Mommsen, "If performed with the consent of the castrated or his guardian, in former times castration was apparently exempt from punishment. Domitian prohibited it throughout the empire both for free men and slaves,

p. 128

even with the consent of the person involved (at times punished by death)."

Circumcision was also severely punished because it was considered to be a kind of castration. "Hadrian was the first one, not apparently for religious reasons, but because of the superficial similarity of the operations, to equate circumcision and castration, which was one of the reasons that led to a serious Jewish insurrection at that time. His successor granted it to the Jews and also the Egyptians. Otherwise, however, circumcision was considered equal to castration, and equally punished". Mommsen (p. 637.)

Baumann goes so far as to maintain: "La castration, l'eunuchisme et la circoncision ne sont que de modifications amoindries l'une de l'autre".

"Castration also existed among the Hebrews. Moses zealously combated this custom and went so far in his decree as even to forbid the castration of cattle". (Trusen, p. 94, Wunderbar, pp. 32-33.)

According to Hirsch 'Celibacy and castration were to the Jewish theocracy abuses just as execrable as lust and debauchery".

The origin of castration will not be discussed here in detail since that would take us too far from our main theme; it will be discussed only insofar as it shows points of similarity with circumcision.

"The custom of circumcising only grown youths, still prevalent in many parts of Africa, may have favored the origin of this operation, by which it was sought to make harem guards of them, in connection with the great jealousy as a result of polygamy" is the opinion of Trusen (p. 94).

A very remarkable, almost entirely incomprehensible mutilation of the masculine organ is performed in the Far East among the Australians. It is known in anthro

p. 129

pological literature as the mika operation and consists in a slitting open of the urinary tube for a more or less long distance to the orificium urethrae (introcisio, situbincisio). Von Gennep says it is not any more barbarous, nor any more symbolical, than the wide-spread circumcision practices (Karsch, p. 73). Milne Robertson thinks it may be derived from primitive vulnerary art in occasional cases of inflammation of the urethra. (Karsch, p. 273.) A natural case of hypospadias could have served as a model. According to Karsch (p. 74) the natives give the following explanation:
"Without the mika operation people are no better than dogs or other lower beings".

The first interpreters of the custom thought they saw in subincision a means of regulating the number of births, in that an ejaculatio praecox was thus effected. Aside from the fact that primitive man has other means of decimating the number of births - by infanticide - the premise of the sterility of the subjects is false, since those subincised still procreate children, and all the inhabitants

p. 130

of a district, not only single individuals, undergo the Operation. Klaatsch was the first to succeed in proving that subincision served homo-erotic purposes. According to him the men of the tribe of Niol-Niol (-called Wamba-) enter into a fervent, almost matrimonial relationship with the not yet subincised youths and boys (-called Walebel).

The Wamba, for the purpose of sexual satisfaction, extends the slit in his urethra so that it remains open down to the scrotum. Now the walebel (youth) places his penis in the subincised penis and through constant friction succeeds in effecting an ejaculation of semen on the part of both.

From this information it can be seen why the subincised men of the Pitta-Pitta tribe are (according to Roth) called "meko-maro" (vulva-possessors).

Eylmann's report of the operation is very clear. According to him, subincision consists "entirely in the exposure of the urethra by incisions made on the under side of the penis which may reach from the scrotum to the terminal meatus. An assistant to the operator, who sits astride on the stomach of the boy that is being operated on, holds the latter's penis as taut as possible, the operator then performs the cuts in very few strokes. After an incision through the skin is made, the wound is extended by tearing apart the tissue with both thumbs, down to the urethra (Fig. 7). The patient does indeed become very weak through the severe bleeding, mainly of the erectile tissue surrounding the urethra, but permanent harm to the erectile tissue of the penis is avoided by the experienced operator. Also, for the more certain and convenient performance of the operation, a kangeroo bone is said to be inserted into the urethra. The operation is repeated in case the walls of the wound meet and grow together. The slit caused by the operation is only visible by lifting the member. But its presence can easily be detected by the almost double circumference of the

p. 131

penis. The English have coined the nick-name whistle-cock for the Australian possessed of such an artificial hypospadias". (Karsch, p. 9.)

Not all Australian tribes perform this mutilation of the penis in the way described above. I refer to Walter E. Roth, who gives a description of the operation quite different from that among the Pitta-Pitta and Yaroinga.

"The extent of the incision is not the same everywhere. Milne Robertson says that among the natives of the De Gray River the slit extended only from the meatus to the middle of the organ, but that among the negroes living on the north side of Murchison it went from the meatus down the whole length of the penis to the root of the scrotum. According to Creed, the operation is confined, among the Gawlian Australians of note, to a perforation of the ventral wall of the urethra in that part of the penis directly in front of the scrotum.

"Among some tribes a single cut does not suffice. Thus the Undekerebina in Queensland make a transverse cut behind the longitudinal cut and the Yaringa, according to the same guarantor, even execute two longitudinal cuts in such a way that a flap of skin results that hangs down over a transverse cut made behind them".

Miklucho-Maclay has adopted the designation "mika" for the operation. Later it was also called "subincision" and finally "introcision."

p. 132

The slit is made by means of a well pointed quartz knife or shell, or even glass. In Karsch (p. 72, Fig. 5) we find such a stone mika knife with its sheath reproduced after Lumholtz.

Eylmann (p. 118) says: "Subincision always appears together with circumcision, the latter being performed always earlier than the former. In the interior the boys are circumcised when they have reached the age of fifteen to seventeen years. The splitting follows either directly after the healing of the wound, that is, after five or six weeks (Arunta), or first in the course of the next year (Tjingale). A stone knife with a handle of Triodi

p. 133

resin is used for both operations between fifteen and twenty five degrees latitude. Only on Lake Eyre, where such is no longer in their possession, a sharp, shell-shaped stone splinter is used for this purpose. Also among the tribes of the north coasts, where circumcision is customary, the young boy must undergo it when he is about fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years old. For the abscission of the foreskin, stone splinters are used here also, since actual stone knives are not made. Among most tribes, a living operating table, (if 1 may term it such) is used, formed by two men lying one on top of the other with their backs upward. In order to prevent the boy from crying out, a loin cloth or the like is stuffed into his mouth, and to keep him from beating around and kicking, three or four men hold him down. One of these sits astride on the stomach of the boy during the operation.

"So far as circumcision is concerned, the foreskin, while one assistant holds it taut and another holds the penis at the root, is cut through close to the glans by the operator. The Walwonga, in addition, are said to tie it together with a string at its upper end. Among the northern tribes, who know nothing of subincision, the patient preserves his foreskin in a small net purse which he carries around his neck. Among these tribes, according to the custom, the mother of the boy in question eats some

p. 134

of the "fat" from the surface of the wound (roasted or raw). As Spencer and Gillen have informed us, the Arunta have a similar custom: there the younger brother of the one operated swallows the foreskin. (1)"
1) Spencer and Gillen, The Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 251.

In Karsch is to be found an exact list of all Australian tribes who practice the mika operation (pp. 82-87).


Father W. Schmidt gives us a very detailed description of this among the Karesau Islanders, of which we give only the more salient points:

"After the house of spirits has been closed, the boy standing first in line is led by his godfather to a place situated a short distance from the seashore where two other men have already taken their position. None of the boys knows what is now to happen to him. When they arrive at the place, the godfather places the hands behind the latter's back and bends his head so far back and upwards, that the boy can see nothing of what goes on in front of him.

"One of the two men (priests) waiting there holds in his hand a dagger of cassowary bone, sharply pointed and about as wide as a moderately sized pen-holder. With this he pierces the boys penis at its tip (2) from above, so that the point of the dagger projects from the under side, and then withdraws the dagger; then he penetrates the penis again from the other side, but not so far as to make the tip of the dagger project beyond it, and then withdraws it again. "If the boy is very young, say eleven to thirteen years, then the operation is over now. But if he is older, the first man lifts the foreskin away from both wounds with the dagger while the second cuts it away entirely with a bamboo knife about as wide as the thumb.
2) The prepuce is probably meant. (B.)

p. 135

"The foreskin is either thrown into an ant-hill or buried in a little hole in the earth.

"The amputatio praeputii, which has not been performed on these younger boys, is not undertaken at all, even when they later marry. But if one ever comes into a strange village and visits the house of spirits there, without, as is required by law for strangers, having first made an offering of betel and pepper or yams, etc., in front of it, he is called to account by the natives of the village. If he says that he has forgotten to, he is not believed; they doubt whether he has ever been initiated at all, boys not initiated, - and no girls and women at all - may ever enter the house of spirits - he is examined, and if amputatio praeputii had never been performed on him, it is now done forcibly.

"A married man may, if he has had no children yet, go through the general ceremony of circumcision. But if he has children, his foreskin is amputated when he is not aware of it, and for the rest of his life he may visit the house of spirits only clandestinely, without the knowledge of his wife and children.

"One after the other the boys and youths are now subjected to the operation. The bigger boys hold out staunchly without crying. But the smaller ones cry and yell and curse the men, looking for stones to throw at them and saying that it is "not nice" of them, that they will tell the women. Thereupon the men show them spears and daggers and threaten them with death if they tell. If a boy is especially unruly, he is pierced once more.

"The patients run right into the sea to wash their wounds. If one of them lies down on the shore and cries, as the smaller ones in particular do, he is brusquely picked up and thrown into the water. Not until the last of them has entered the water may any of them leave it. "Then each one of them is given a girdle of leaves,

p. 136

whereas the boys had previously run about absolutely naked. Even when the amputatio praeputii has been performed, this belt is not removed. But the smaller boys, who have only been pierced, often remove it later when their wounds have cicatrized".

It would take us too far afield were we to relate the whole ceremony with all the celebrations following it, however important it may be for folklore. But we quote the description of the blood cult, which is connected with the concept of circumcision and is performed at the concluding celebration. Father Schmidt writes: "In the meantime the men have removed the stagnant water from one of the trough-shaped hollows in the stone formed on the shore by the action of the waves, and filled it with sweet water. Tum penem sibi transfigunt ( "Then they pierce their penis;" (the prepuce?) (B.)) (with the cassowary bone mentioned above) et sanguinem in de scaturientem docurrere faciant ( "and let the blood run." (B.)) into the trough, mixing it with the water. Any blood that may have fallen on the edge and coagulated there is also scraped in, so that thick pieces float around in it. Finally one of the men tests it by bending down and applying his lips to it to see whether there is enough blood there.

"The boys must now drink out of this trough, lying down and sipping up the mixture with their mouths.

"The boys are now told that if they wish, they may every day transfigendo penem sanguinem sibi extrahere.(3) 3) "let blood from their pieced penis." (B.) It is not made a duty; but if someone becomes ill, it is believed that it is because he has not done ilt. The smaller boys do not do it, but the bigger ones do".


According to Lindblom, among the Wakamba who have

p. 137

already been circumcised, a cut is made at the base of the glans, over which beer is poured. This operation, in contrast to actual circumcision, is called the "large" or "circumcision of the rhinoceros".


Risa tells of an exceedingly barbaric custom prevalent among the Yesidis in Vilajet Assir in Yemen: "Circumcision is performed by them in the fifteenth to twentieth year; a strip of skin is removed from the navel to the anus, including the skin of the penis and scrotum". It is performed coram publico in a standing position, the patient holding on to a lance. "The circumcisor kneels before him and severs the skin with a blunt knife, strand after strand, each time showing the trophy to the populace that is gathered about. The one being circumcised may not cry out nor wail or he would be despised and forsaken by his bride, who witnesses the procedure. Hot oil is put on the wound. People often die of the consequences, many leave the tribe".

For the better understanding of the psychoanalytic disposition of the question we shall now quote the explanations suggested by Ploss, Renz, Stoll, Schultz, Frazer and Andree.

* David Berger`s translation of Ploss - The following translation is by RS

Heinrich Ploss (p. 368 f.) says the following on the purpose of circumcision: "The purpose and intention of this operation lies, in my opinion, in the endeavour to correct nature. To help her with her supposed "mistakes" and to bring about a state on the sexual organ which one considers to be normal in adults. Such a state clearly never occurs of its own accord when left to nature among small children, and still does not develop spontaneously very often during puberty. On the other hand, it is not at all uncommon for such states to continue until adulthood causing difficulties during sexual activity. They wanted to eliminate phimosis, because they considered a man with such a defect was less able to have children.

In order to

p. 138

understand this it must be pointed out which process of change usually, if not always, occurs in the penis up until the time when procreation is possible. Among new born children, the foreskin covering the glans is always so formed that it is only with difficulty or force that it can be retracted over the glans. After a period of time in relationship to the development of the entire member, (the penis), the foreskin becomes a lot more elastic around its opening, so that later, in fact when the penis is in the erect state, in the majority of cases the foreskin folds back automatically.

It is thus quite normal for a new born child to possess a phimosis i.e. an elongation of the foreskin combined with a narrowness of the opening, such that the retraction of this behind the corona of the glans (which is profitable for a man in order to ejaculate when performing coitus); is not possible.

If (everywhere, without question even among the insufficiently or inadequately observant natural peoples); the fact had been noticed that sometimes youths (when they grow up to adulthood), may begin to carry the glans naked (because the prepuce retracts automatically (1) and remains behind the corona); and in addition among men, the glans is still only abnormally covered by the foreskin during an erection; therefore the foreskin covering the glans appears to be an abnormal state of affairs, which one must quite routinely take counter measures against and correct in good time (2).

1) as a rule boys anticipate this manually. (B.)

2) Ploss contradicts himself, since he says that the prepuce shifts back by itself, and the glans is uncovered during erection; there is thus no reason for circumcision. (B.)

2b) Ploss does not contradict himself since he says this usually is the case; he emphasises it is the appearance of phimosis in the child, which helped motivate the operation. (RS.)

"With this, I conclude that the original predisposition towards circumcision was the operational preparation for the sexual function of the man. One considers the child's foreskin, which has to some extent remained covering the glans, since earliest childhood regardless of everything, the persisting narrow condition of the phimosis; as being more or less an obstacle to coitus, which one must correct with a surgical operation.

It is for this reason, that most primitive peoples incise or ablate

p. 139

the foreskin, once the age of puberty, (when the maturity for the enjoyment of sex) has been reached(3); with this one decisive act they wanted to make the boy completely mature and normal in the sexual sense.

3) That is, at the age when the foreskin already "shifts back by itself." (B.)

It is thus, an act which is conducted, whereby one takes the young person in as an equal among the group of mature, marryable men; and at the same time one combines this act with certain ceremonies, symbolic of this initiation; by which, with respect to the pain (that this forthcoming operation causes to the very sensitive male sexual organ), one wishes to develop a form of test on the masculine fortitude.

This singular operation which prepares for sexual adulthood, is practised by the Jews and Muslims among others, at quite an early age; here one believes it is necessary to fight against this natural state of incompleteness as soon as the child is born.

They want even the child to be assured the possibility of numerous offspring and not leave it to chance, if the phimosis which had been noticed on him, (which could perhaps hinder procreation); will resolve naturally by itself or if it will remain in the future. Thus it becomes regarded as a work which is pleasing to God: then it was held in itself by the Jews for highly worthwhile to have numerous offspring.

In this respect, one cannot contradict that the lack of the foreskin; (if this is the result of either a congenital malformation, a chance injury, or if it has been purposefully removed); has far more advantages than disadvantages in that on the one hand the high sensitivity of the glans, on the other the susceptibility to injuries and infections would be removed.

The cleaning of the surface of the glans becomes easier, the collection and decomposition of fungal mould (Smegma) is hindered, gonorrhoea is avoided and sores (namely Syphilis) are less likely to find footing. For this reason some doctors are of the opinion "that the weighing up of all these advantages and disadvantages in those times could have been the sole reason for introducing circumcision, and that therefore the practice

p. 140

was justified in the orient and in all hot lands where the men really have an extended foreskin"

"Against this view, (as I have already mentioned), I must again raise the point, that only in few cases were precautionary health measures openly expressed, or otherwise came to light as the definite and true intention behind the introduction and practice of circumcision; in that only among individual peoples e.g. the Samoaner, sanitary considerations, encouragement of cleanliness etc., were expressly emphasised.

An extraordinary large number of peoples who practice circumcision, show in fact little passion for cleanliness and it is therefore hardly likely that as an exception, they wished specifically the man's penis to be particularly clean. There must be another psychological motive which moved them to adopt the operation.".

* David Berger continues the translation

Richard Andree (pp. 166-212) takes the same position as Ploss on the question, whom he quotes at the end of his exposition. But he makes a reservation for the American aborigines. "The view that the abscission of the foreskin is a sacrifice for the gods, indeed, even a substitution for human sacrifice, has repeatedly been expressed, and seems, at least for America, not to be unfounded ...

"For these ... peoples it appears to me to be quite certain that the idea of sacrifice was decisive and the cause of the introduction of circumcision. If the main factor had been, in America, as it is among most peoples, the preparation for procreation, circumcision would be much more wide-spread in that portion of the earth. But, as a matter of fact, it occurs only sporadically and is always connected with blood sacrifices and religious ceremonies. In general, however, I still must negate that one cause led to circumcision, but that beyond doubt, among a number of peoples the idea of sacrifice also led to this. However among the majority another point of view for its introduction was present, a point

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of view all knowledge of which has entirely disappeared and must be found once more."".

Andree disagrees with the opinion of an originally religious character of circumcision, as it is still manifested among the Jews, as well as with the explanation suggested by von Autenrieth, and the hygienic precautionary measures of the operation.

Heinrich Schurtz (1, p. 96 f.) expresses a view similar to that of Ploss: "Directly connected with the sexual freedom which the boys enjoy from now on, there is in the main only one very wide-spread custom, that of circumcision, the purpose of which probably is, despite all profound hypotheses, merely that of facilitating cohabitation, and at any rate, to have a hygienic effect ...

" ... the custom of circumcision, which, in its various forms, probably had the original purpose of facilitating sexual intercourse (1), and which was only gradually here and there, as among the Jews, supported by secondary reasons, was shifted to the early days of the child's life". (II, p. 119.)

1) lt is thus admitted that the uncircumcised cohabit with difficulty. (B.)

Otto Stoll (p. 543 ff.) gives a very detailed foundation for the concept of circumcision in his excellent work, differentiating two distinct groups of phenomena attendant upon the operation. "The first group includes those cases in which an intentional and specific operation is involved, confined to the genital apparatus and conditioned by its real or supposed physiological role. A classical example of this kind, is the circumcision of the Jews. In addition we should include here the partial testicular extirpation of the Hottentots.

"In the second, larger group, the mutilations practiced on the genitalia form only one part of a whole series of bloody operations having the character of initiation ceremonies; the specific element recedes more or less into the

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background and it is only by chance (?B.), so to speak, that the genital apparatus is operated on, together with the perforation of the ears and nose, and the basis for scar ornamentation: in this case it is simply another point that can be operated on without endangering the life of the individual ...

"It is probable that this second, larger group still represents the original situation and that the cases of the first group, in which the bloody procedure is confined to the genital apparatus, have developed only secondarily out of similar ones in the first; the coarse practices such as copious incision in the skin, breaking out of the teeth, etc., being abandoned with increasing civilization or being gradually displaced by milder forms, such as the simple piercing of the lobe of the ear or the column or sides of the nose, while the operations performed on the genitalia received a specific stamp as a result of the insight into its physiological significance ...

"If we sought to discover the psychological factors basic to the cases of the second group, we should have to seek for them in the following general situation:

"l. The indifference to foreign bodily pain prevailing among primitive peoples. "This indifference is documented particularly and most strikingly in the not only coarse but often actually cruel treatment of animals of all kinds, even domestic animals, in their use for service and also slaughtering and sacrifice. We have here a universal trait of the human soul which is characteristic not only of "primitive" peoples, but just as much of the lower strata of the so-called "civilized" races, and from which only the most highly civilized individuals within the latter group, through their insight and self-control, have been able, more or less, to free themselves. "With the exception of only the very highest stages of civilization, which are always represented by single indi-

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viduals and never by whole races, this indifference is transferred to man and not infrequently assumes the character of intended and refined cruelty, which was manifested in an actually sadistic manner particularly in the customs of earlier warfare, and usages of legal punishment of former centuries in Europe as well.

"2. The familiarity with the sight of flowing blood, severe injuries and animated expressions of pain, inevitably developing as a result of the frequency of war among almost all races.

"3. In the suggestive power of example and the tradition of the tribe, which bind the individual psychically and prevent him from being unbiased in his criticism of received customs, examining them for their rational motivation, and, where none such is recognizable, working for the transformation and rejection of customs that have become senseless".

1 quote, according to Zeller (pp. 101-103) the views on circumcision of Renz that differ from those of Ploss. Renz sees in circumcision an act of the sex or fertility cult, starting from those peoples that tie up circumcision with more or less complicated forms of the tree, post, fire, water and serpent cults. At the bottom of all these cults is an apotheosis of fertility. Circumcision is also the official initiation into the sex life also among those peoples who do not practice the cults mentioned above. Among races who revere the amputated prepuce (or other objects connected with circumcision), as a powerful means of procreation and carry them about on themselves, one of the factors in the motivation for circumcision is the desire for numerous offspring. But a purely sexual purpose is also possible, some races expecting from circumcision an intensification of sexual feeling during copulation "

An argument in favor of its sexual significance is the fact that among most peoples, including the followers of Mohammed, it is performed during the age of puberty.

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"Here and there circumcision is looked upon as an act of expiation and purification, which does not necessarily have to refer to sexual sins that are to be atoned for, but may mean any evil".

Renz (p. 412) says: "Very remarkable is the conception of circumcision as a rebirth from the stomach or belly of a spirit. The hut of isolation, in which the boys must spend a long time, serves as the belly of the spirit. It is not always necessary for the rebirth or transformation, any enclosure or secret place serving the same purpose".

Here Renz adds the following footnote: "I have just obtained a copy of Frazer's "The Golden Bough" in the third edition (1911), in which the author expresses the hope of having found the long lost key to the significance of circumcision, i. e. Frazer thinks that rebirth is the original and universally valid significance of circumcision. Frazer adopted this view because the . . . east African Kikuyu had formerly bound up their circumcision with the ceremonies of an ostensible rebirth, which are now celebrated separately, and because . . . in Central Australia the amputated foreskins are put into the same totem-trees, totem-rocks and other totem-centers in which human souls spend the time between their departure from the dying individual and their rebirth in a child.

"Frazer's points of departure do not of course depreciate mine, but rather strengthen them. The rich symbolism of the nations prefers to express the same thought in manifold forms. But if Frazer believes that the significance of the rebirth lies in the magic powers of a spirit being conferred upon the candidate, or the fictitious birth (rebirth) actually allowing him a real rebirth (after real death) on earth, then I doubt it. According to my exposition above . . . it would rather be much more plausible that the nations wish to express by such rebirth ceremonies that the individual circumcised or to be received into the ranks of the adults, is from now on a dif-

p. 145

ferent person from what he had been up to then, a man with other rights and duties than formerly, that he has now experienced a sexual, social and religious rebirth".

On the concept of the covenant, as manifests in Mosaic circumcision, and the bond of friendship among those circumcised at the same time in other races, Renz writes further (p. 144): "If we are surprised to find that the circumcised organ of procreation is the sign of a covenant of tribe or nation, and that the operation is the time best fitted for concluding life-long friendships, this surprise disappears if we think of the apotheosis of the power of procreation among polytheistic races and the high regard in which it is held among monotheists".

Renz observes finally (pp. 148-149): "My former expositions also give the impression that among most peoples circumcision of boys appears as a preparation for the sexual functions. And yet this impression is not cogent because it provokes the question: do not the circumcised nations in their intercourse with the uncircumcised see that they have no advantage over them either in the power of procreation, or health and cleanliness or socio-political unity?

"But Andree has already noticed this difficulty in the solution of the problem: he thinks, on the other hand, that circumcision did not receive a religious significance until it was already present and its possible wholesomeness tested.

"But circumcision does not seem to have stood the test, and we should be justified in assuming that the great dissemination of circumcision was founded on an erroneous overestimation of its effect on procreation.

"However, its religious character cannot be denied among the greatest number of races even accepting the last assumption and in spite of its being called antiquated, if one sees religion in its broadest sense; that is, in the sense of the sex cult with its numerous forms, and that

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one indeed must, if he conceives polytheism to be a form of religion, which is not to be disproved.

"The covenant, procreation, rebirth, expiation and religion contradict one another as little in the monotheistic concept of religion as they do in the polytheistic. The various results that have come from the researches on the reason and purpose or significance of circumcision are to be looked upon rather as mutually complementary than as contradictory".

The fact that the initiation rites of boys are almost always bound up with pedagogical tortures has led Kulischer to make the following, probably somewhat exaggerated, statement: "Among the African tribes we find the same tortures at the time of puberty that we find among the American peoples, with the difference that in Africa the tortures have assumed a more definite form: the form of circumcision".

. Le Roy (p. 236) sees in circumcision an "interdit leve"; only through the blood sacrifice of mutilation of the penis can the "permis d'user" be bought. Reik (p. 981) is of the opinion "that the prohibition -the partial lifting of which is bound up with the rites of puberty - was first set up within the narrow frame of the family and only later extended beyond these limits".

To consider circumcision simply as a detail of the rites of puberty is untenable; not because it is practiced by many peoples without any ceremonies at all - the rites could have disappeared in the course of time for other cultic, social or practical reasons - but because the majority of races get along without any circumcision in their initiation of boys. The fact that it has associated itself with the other ceremonies in the initiation of boys does not justify the conclusion that it represents simply an episode -and the most important one, too - of the celebration, that it is to be explained solely from initiation rites and had arisen from them. Circumcision arose

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independently from quite other considerations, was then taken up by the men's societies, which, according to Thurnwald, represent the first "tangible form of state formation" into the already present initiation rites of boys, just as it was incorporated by the Israelites into the covenant. Since circumcision is in itself a painful operation, as are also the separate phases of the initiation rites, the common characteristics of excruciation and torture was considered by many authors, and particularly by psychoanalysts, to be most fundamental. Even if primitive man did perhaps incorporate the institution of circumcision in the ceremony of initiation simply because it was another item in the torture of the boys, still one can by no means conclude that it arose for this purpose, still less out of this motive.

All initiations of boys show very many like and related characteristics; excruciation, torture and subjection is one of the most essential of them. The boys are often bullied by all kinds of "fairy tales" which they perhaps, or even probably, believe to be true, but after they have gone through the initiation rites they see clearly their fictitious and false nature. Ethnology furnishes many examples of this.

Thus, among the Nandi, a lion is brought before the circumcised novices.
"It is dark. A lion comes and roars, "guh, guh". He (the boy) trembles with fright. But soon he becomes angry because he sees that the people have been fooling him. They come and show him an earthenware vessel. 'What is this?' they ask. 'A pot,' he answers. 'That is the lion,' is what he now hears." (Bryk, I p. 59.) The totem animal he had previously feared now suddenly turns out to be nothing but humbug. Such simulations are, unfortunately, still to be found among ourselves; they play a large part in the upbringing of children, when the latter are told about the "bogeyman",

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etc. or about the stork (totem animal?) who brings the children.

Reik (pp. 76-77) gives a very crass example of this conscious swindling and misleading of novices. It makes one think of the superior smile of the Roman prophets. "Sincethey have received the youngsters into their company, the men, who have safeguarded themselves for such a long time against their growing sons by means of intimidating them, do not now continue to spurn them, but grant them a peek behind the scenes. Thus the women and children of Central Australia are still frightened by the whirring of the bullroarer, which is alleged to be the voice of the mythical being Tuanjiraka. Among many tribes the men themselves give the boys such sticks after circumcision and explain the secret to them. This happens among the Aranda, as the missionary Carl Strehlow relate (1), in the following words: 'We have always told you that it was Tuanjiraka that caused you pain. You shall now discard the belief in Tuanjiraka and believe instead that this is Tuanjiraka. We have told you, women and children only about the bullroarer (nankara) and have only compared Tuanjiraka with it. As we have done so shall you again and again tell the children (about Tuanjiraka), in order that the news may not spread (that there is no Tuanjiraka). Or we should all disappear from the earth and it would be heard under the whole sky we died out. Just as we, the circumcised, you must never spread it, in order that this news never be told to the children. Keep the tyurunga (bullroarer) secret and continue to tell the children about Tuanjiraka. As your forefathers, so are you also now become a man. Keep it for yourself. lf the children were to learn about it, you would become sick to death. Just as we, so shall you also lie and say, 'There is indeed a Tuanjiraka'. With noble

1) Das soziale Leben der Aranda - und Loritjastamme, Frankfurt am Main, 1913, p. 25.

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candor, then, the men now admit that it was fear of the rising generation, particularly, that forced them to have the demon play its part. Their advice to follow their example, as well as the warning given with it, that those who have now become men would otherwise become sick and die, and the tribe die out too, is, if one seizes its unconscious significance, fully justified, because if these protective measures fell, then the young people would give themselves up entirely to their rebellious feelings and kill their fathers; the tribe would perish in the struggle between both generations.

"It must also be pointed out that in the legends of the Semitic races of antiquity there appears the same shifting on to the gods that demand circumcision as is to be found among primitives. Among the Jews Yahweh has issued the command for this measure; the patriarchs, as representatives of the paternal generation, perform it (Abraham, Joshua). The Aranda of Central Australia, like the Jewish myths, derive the introduction of circumcision (and subincision) from divine beings: Margarkunjerkunja, who articulated to the people of primeval times, introduced the operation; when it fell into oblivion or was performed badly, two hawk-men came from the north who executed it with a stone knife on the men who lived in the south".(1)
1) C, Strehlow, op cit.. p. 10

The explanations of the reason for these mystic ceremonies given Europeans by the natives are also significant. "We eat the hogs (2) and lie to the women" (Reik, p. 65).
2) At the puberty rites in Australia hogs are consumed of which the women receive nothing. (B.)

lt was necessary that these characteristic features of the initiation rites of boys, which also occur among races that know nothing of circumcision, be pointed out, before the explanation suggested by psychoanalysis could be given.

Continue to Part Three
Page 150-181

Navigation Hierarchy
Chapter Three
The Origins of Routine Male Circumcision
Phimosis Through the Ages

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